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I was invited to “Dance Party USA” and I met Kelly Ripa when I was a teenager!

I was invited to “Dance Party USA” and I met Kelly Ripa when I was a teenager!

Big dance moves and bigger hair thanks to Aqua Net.

The 80s nostalgia is alive and well when someone mentions “Dance Party USA” or I come across a clip from the show on TikTok. I haven’t really thought about it in a while, but a video from the show recently landed on my “For You” page on TikTok and the memories have been flowing ever since.

I often forget that for some people it’s a fun time hearing guest stories on the show and meeting Kelly Ripa when she was just a teenager before fame hit her. But after seeing a clip from an old episode of the show that sparked my memory, it felt like the perfect time to let my story be told.

I was a guest dancer on “Dance Party USA” in the late 80’s!

Dance Party USA Guest Pass
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributing photo

First of all, no, the number is no longer working.

Second, I have no photographic evidence of my time on the show. I know for today’s generation it’s a tough sell because with cell phones we all have pictures of everything exciting we’ve done. But remember, the late 80s didn’t have cell phones. We had disposable cameras where we had to ask other people to take our photos, the pre-selfie age, and we had to wait days to get our fingerprints back to see if we had anything good. I know I had a few photos from my time on set, but after a day of searching I could only find a few photos of other people.

Okay, now that we’ve settled that, I’ll start from the beginning. As the only child of a single mother who was never home, MTV, game shows, talk shows, and “Dance Party USA” took turns raising me. I was literally obsessed with “Dance Party USA”. Looking back, I honestly couldn’t tell you why, but it caught and held my attention. I watched it religiously every day, six days a week.

Dance Party USA regulars Christina and Lillian
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributing photo

Growing up in New Jersey, when the opportunity arose to be a guest on the show (the show was filmed near Philadelphia), I took it immediately. I brought a friend of mine from high school with me to experience all the fun.

The day started early and ended late, but you never heard a complaint from me. That Saturday in 1988, we shot a week of episodes. If I remember correctly, I ended up on five or six episodes a few weeks after filming. (Stay with me here, my 80s memory is hazy, so if I remember things slightly off, I apologize.)

The guest pass I received in the mail had instructions on the back. There was a number on the card to call for general information. There were also rules about what to wear and what not to wear on your back – dress to impress in bright colors, no plain black, white or gray clothes, no tank tops, t-shirts or dirty sneakers. There was also a reminder that you had to be at least 15 years old to attend the recording.

Kelly Ripa was there the day I was on set

Kelly Ripa on Dance Party USA
Memories of the 80s and 90s – TikTok

Every time someone hears I was on the show, the first question they ask is about Kelly Ripa.

She was there the day I was, and I had the opportunity to meet her during one of the many breaks throughout the day. I happened to be sitting next to her during a break. She wasn’t very talkative as far as I remember, and not super nice. I remember she gave me a piece of chocolate because she was giving it to everyone around her.

And to be honest, that’s my whole story. No more no less. I know, not that exciting, but back then, that was it.

Holly, a regular at Dance Party USA
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributing photo

I had my episodes on a VHS tape (yes, I’m so old that VHS was the only solution), and those tapes are long gone. I moved around a lot from when I was 15 until my young adult life, so they were probably thrown away during one of my many moves, unfortunately.

But am I really sad? Probably not as much as you might think. I was a bad dancer and went on the show because I loved it, so who needs that proof, right? My kids would have a blast if they had it, so I’m doing just fine without those tapes.

USA Dance Party Poster
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributing photo

One thing I was able to find while looking for photos was the “Dance Party USA” poster which I honestly can’t remember how I got.

It’s old, it’s crumpled to be at the bottom of a box, but the memories are there in color. I also had a “Dance Party USA” jacket at one point in my teens. I remember it clearly – it was white and the whole back was the show’s logo. I wonder what happened to that jacket?

TikTok has tons of ‘Dance Party USA’ memories

A quick search of the show’s name on TikTok brings up tons of videos. Some of the show’s popular regulars now have TikTok pages and are also sharing their memories and clips.

@rickbrindle In response to @Kali Bonoz, I couldn’t help it. I remember Kelly Ripa from WAY back. #dance #saltnpepa #kellyripa #fypシ #genx #dancpartyusa #danceparty ♬ Push It – Salt-N-Pepa

While today’s generation probably wouldn’t watch a show of teenagers dancing and sometimes doing lip-syncing routines, it was all the rage back then. Some popular musicians and bands ended up on the show here and there, the show took to the road to film on the beach in the summer, and regulars became pen pals for many fans. They sent fact sheets, short notes and photos to anyone who sent them mail and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

It was definitely an experience that anyone who watched or danced on the show won’t soon forget, and I’m so glad the memories live on thanks to TikTok and social media.

Where were you on the show as a regular or a guest? If so and you would like to share your story, please contact me via Instagram or email.

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